Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Allocated for Same Failed Strategies <br> Drug Policy Experts Available for Comment
The White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will release its 2002 drug control strategy on Tuesday, February 12th. Based on President Bush's proposed 2002 budget, the 2002 drug strategy is expected to be a continuation of the failed policies of the last thirty years - devoting more resources to the bloated federal criminal justice system, while continuing to short-change treatment, education, and public health programs.
"The record of failure in this area is not encouraging," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "President Bush's niece was just arrested for a drug violation. Her family checked her into treatment. America deserves a strategy that reflects this kind of compassion."
President Bush has said that "the most effective way to reduce the supply of drugs in America is to reduce the demand for drugs in America." Yet the 2002 drug strategy is not expected to alter the 30-year trend of devoting 70% of annual drug war resources to police, prisons, and the military, and only 30% to treatment and education efforts.
Likewise -- despite indications by President Bush, Drug Czar John Walters, and DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson that they support re-examining mandatory minimum sentences and the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity -- the 2002 drug strategy is not expected to include significant reform of federal drug sentencing policies. While Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has criticized international drug control efforts and suggested that focusing on demand at home would be a better strategy, the 2002 drug strategy will earmark hundreds of millions of dollars to the Latin America drug war.
"The current approach, with its over-reliance on punitive, criminal justice policies costs billions more each year yet delivers less and less," said Bill McColl, director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "U.S. drug policy needs a new bottom line - one that focuses on reducing the death, disease, crime and suffering associated with both drug
use and drug prohibition. If the government were serious about the health and welfare of its citizens, it would take the following steps tomorrow:"
- Stop wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on expensive television ads that demonize non-violent Americans.
- Stop wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on an ineffective Latin American military campaign that is disrupting the Colombia peace process and undermining human rights.
- Stop incarcerating citizens for drug possession.
- Repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and return sentencing discretion to judges.
- Make appropriate treatment available to every addict who seeks it, including methadone maintenance - which has been proven to be the most effective treatment for heroin dependence.
- Make sterile syringes readily and legally available through pharmacies and needle exchange programs in order to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. The United States is alone among advanced industrialized western nations in refusing to provide a penny for such programs, which save lives without increasing drug use.
- Develop effective programs to reduce drug overdoses and save lives.